Imagination for Superior Productivity
Here is an an entire chapter excerpt from my forthcoming book ‘Unleash Your Creative Genius’. Please enjoy and share! If you would like to receive more free educational posts and videos like my Facebook Page Here and sign up for my free educational e-mail below;
Imagination is a skill as innate as breathing to humans. It is something that we are all born with in abundance. The wild and wonderful worlds of children’s imaginations are universal. For a child, anything can be real and the most seemingly mundane realities can become grand adventures. How often do we see young kids find some secret joy and wonder in some object or place that would otherwise seem mundane?
Kids also have a sponge-like ability to learn new things quickly. As with the imagination, it is a common belief that this naturally fades as we grow older. This ability to learn and grow with sponge-like ease and the depth of our imaginative, world bending powers are completely related.
It is a devastating misunderstanding that imagination naturally fades as we grow older. Imagination is designed to change and grow in scope and utility when it is used properly. All the same, it is common reality that imagination dwindles as we grow older and with it our ability to learn new tricks.
This is caused by many factors of our cultural upbringing. The drive towards specialization quickly and steadily replaces wonder and imagination in children with the responsibilities of school, life and eventually career. Career and responsibility were never meant to replace imagination, however, and in an ideal situation they can benefit from its presence in our lives.
After working with children around the world for many years, it has become apparent that young children in every culture are practically the same regardless of social background. If you place a group of young children together from across different cultures and economic realities, they will begin to play in moments as children do, with no cognizance of the barriers or pragmatic issues that press upon adults and even older children. It is in the process of cultural conditioning that the imagination wanes and the mind becomes completely preoccupied by the pragmatic needs of life and career.
Few, if any, are spared the hard-wiring of cultural conditioning. Even hyper-creative artists, musicians and performers become far more pragmatic and focused as they grow into adulthood; having lost much of their uninhibited imagination.
The hardwiring and focusing of parts of our experience is powerful and necessary. If we remained in the abstract world of children our whole lives we would not be able to engage in more complex behaviors available to us as adults. When hardwired pragmatism exists in place of rather then complimentary to our imagination it becomes unfounded and unhealthy. Imagination, when allowed to grow along side our adult responsibilities, is one of the most important tools we have.
Imagination is paramount to innovation, problem solving and effective learning. A mind that does not effectively utilize the imagination is handicapped in it’s ability to grow and change. Fortunately, imagination follows the same proven principles of any skill’s growth. With exercise it will not only reawaken, it will eventually grow and in time, flourish.
One of the most important goals of this work is to reinvigorate the imagination to begin to function normally.
So why is the imagination so important?
Elisa Tartaglia and the Laboratory of Psychophysics at Switzerland’s Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL) performed an experiment where they tested perceptual learning; which is the learning that occurs in our minds through visualization of a stimulus or activity. Over thousands of tests they used images and sounds with consistencies and abnormalities to train the brain in speed of recognizing those abnormalities. Their findings, which were published in Current Biology, show that exercising a specific behavior in our mind can teach similarly as exercising a behavior in real life. In the study the conclude that perceptual learning is foundational and potentially the most important form of learning we have.
The implications of perceptual learning are widespread. Simply thinking about something you want to improve in your life is actually akin to doing it; it helps strengthen and expand the neural connectors governing proficiency in that particular skill.
When we consider imagination as a far more complex and advanced form of thought, we can see the potential to exponentiate perceptual learning. Rather then just thinking about something we want to learn we imagine it to full realization.
What’s the difference?
Say you are practicing free throw shots in basketball. You have heard that thinking regularly about successful free throw shots does in fact have a positive benefit on your actual free throw, so you give it a try. You think about your posture and form, you think about the perfect arc of the ball; the mental clarity so that you don’t choke at the line. It has been shown that this will effectively activate and exercise the same neural centers that are employed while actually standing at the free throw line.
What if we could take this one step further?
Imagination, in it’s fully active and healthy state, is a full sensory experience. Now you are there; you hear the echo of your footsteps on the court against the walls of the arena. You see the colors of the court, your blurred reflection in the glossy varnish. Maybe there is a crowd? You decide.
Either way you are keenly aware of the empty seats and the faint odor of spilled drinks and food that never truly leaves. Or you see the crowd, the myriad of faces and colors, hear the constant drone and murmur of their voices. You feel the subtle bumpy texture of the basketball, you smell the rubber. You feel its weight in your fingers, feel the resistance it creates with every dribble as your hands receive it again and again. You feel the tinge of nervous excitement that always comes before you step up to the line, the feel of the socks at your ankles and shoes on your feet, and you feel that practiced calm overtake you at the perfect moment.
The sweat is beading on your forehead and the heated effort of the game is in your breath and body. You feel your muscles twitch as you aim, eyes fixed on the net, and shoot. You see that perfect arc you have practiced thousands of times and of course the ball plummets through the hoop with only the smallest whoosh of the net.
Imagination has brought you here in a lucid and realistic way. You have used your power of imagination, far beyond mere visualization, to bring all of your senses into the experience. You are training the basic neural pathways associated with the mental action as well as the entirety of those pathways that are engaged in the full experience of standing there at the line.
Likewise you have just exercised your imagination well beyond the level experienced by most adults in our culture. Each time you practice this technique, the detail will become richer and more vibrant. With practice the difference between learning from action and from imagination will diminish.
Once we understand that this principle can be applied to anything and everything we do in life, then the real opportunity begins to unfold. This is where the fun begins.
What do you want to do?
Where do you want to go and what do you want to see?
What do you want to create?
Try imagining yourself doing it. Remember to move beyond simply visualizing it, bring all senses into the mix. It may take some time and energy to naturally feel all the senses integrated into the scene. You may have to visualize first, then go back and feel the sensations, then once again smell the smells, hear the sounds, etc. Eventually, as the skill deepens into our Habitus, we will form an image that contains all of these automatically. Over time that image will feel more and more real and will form with increased clarity and detail. This greater clarity and detail allows for greater precision in the learning process.
This becomes habitus, something that is automatic and natural in our day to day lives. Rather then the standard model of thinking that we are inadvertently taught by the people around us, we automatically enter into this advanced form of imaginative learning.
We increase our likelihood for success, increase the speed of our development of skill and keep synapses growing and healthy through our mental process alone. This is a serious upgrade to normal thinking.
Normal thinkers think in words, more advanced thinkers will visualize; the Creative Genius imagines in full lucid detail.
The freedom that is derived from this practice is limitless.
Pragmatic and Abstract Imagination
Within our imagination we can exercise and play with “pragmatic imagination” and “abstract imagination”. Both are important and both provide different opportunities for growth.
Pragmatic imagination is like our example of the free throw. You imagine things as they would be in your real life, even if all the factors are perfectly executed and represent an ‘unrealistic’ ideal. The idea here is that you imagine something that you would like to do and imagine yourself doing it as well as it can be done. This will directly exercise the parts of your brain governing these skills. Do you want to play complex rhythms or instrumental pieces? Really imagine, with all senses included, that perfect performance. Imagine how your fingers feel as they precisely hit every note.
I have found an interesting correlation between a physical limit and my ability to fully imagine myself surpass it. For example, I push my edge by tapping out a new polyrhythm that is difficult to coordinate in my fingers. I can feel the mental strain just to imagine myself tapping out this rhythm flawlessly. It feels nearly identical to the strain of actually trying to tap it out in real life. In these moments I can distinctly feel the coordination growing that will allow me to actualize it. As with all things, a rhythm that once gave me struggle becomes effortless with time. If something is presenting a challenge in real life, try vivid imagination and see how this helps you to learn more rapidly.
Abstract imagination is allowing yourself to be anything, do anything, and go anywhere. This exercises your capacity to innovate and problem solve with creativity. It can be incredibly fun and liberating. Do you want to fly? Or perhaps you want to create a world of your very own to return to whenever you like? There is no limit to abstract imagination, and the benefits to our creativity are vast.
The exercises in this book are perfect practice points to start building your imagination.
Here is an exercise to integrate into any and all other exercises in this book or anything you want to improve in your life.
Before practicing or engaging in any exercise;
1) Imagine the exercise in full before partaking in it. Pay attention to integrating all the senses; visualize, hear, smell, touch and feel the emotions of what it will be like to do this exercise in reality.
2) Write down a sentence or two for each sense as you experienced it in your imagination.
3) Perform the given exercise, making a mental note of similarities and differences in your projection and the real thing.
4) Under the same columns, write your actual experience.
5) Repeat often and notice how the experience changes. Have your projections become more detailed, more clear? Do the senses integrate more easily? Have the discrepancies between imagined and reality begun to diminish?
With this upgrade to the quality of our mental projections, we find incredible amounts of freedom through creativity and innovation at our fingertips.
The techniques and knowledge here have come from many years of experiential practice with imagination and physical application of the imagined. This method will help to unleash the creative mind that allows you to see opportunities that wouldn’t of registered before. Entire worlds of possibility open each and every moment.
In such a state there is no possible room for the boring or the mundane. Menial tasks become a creative dance, and free time becomes an invigorating joy rather then a vegetative withdrawal. When the imagination is nourished and regularly stimulated it becomes less and less appealing to remain passively entertained. The worlds of your imagination are far more complete and respond to your wishes and desires.
The techniques and wisdom in this book act as wonderful signposts and can easily become a part of your day to day life. With a healthy imagination you are equally empowered to discover your own unique tools that boost your own pathway to greatness. As your relationship with your imagination grows you will discover creative life enhancing tools specifically for you and a unique perspective from which to inspire others.
Now imagine a world where harnessing the imagination is second nature for the people within it. It is a world of Creative Genius. Feel, see, smell and hear that world.
I imagine myself in a village that is bright, green and healthy. (How big is the village? What kind of terrain is it built on? What surrounds it?) The artistic aesthetic once again reigns and the drab architecture of the last century is slowly replaced with more inspiring, creative and sustainable homes. (What do those homes look like, how are they different from modern architecture? What materials are they built from? What shapes do they take? How are they organized with each other?) As I walk across a grassy path through the town I notice one of the last drab, commercial buildings being slowly picked apart piece by piece. A new community center will be built in its place to match the artistic aesthetic of the rest of the village. Along the path at my feet are gardens of wild food and medicine plants growing vigorously in the healthy, loamy soil. (What kinds of plants, what do they look like, smell like?) The feeling of the soft grass under my bare feet is relaxing, drawing me into an almost meditative state as I slowly walk towards town. My ears are greeted by the sounds of birds (Which birds, can you pick out their individual calls? Can you hear the individual calls overlapped upon each other?) singing in the treetops overhead. In the distance I can hear a female voice singing and the sound of guitars, a violin and flute. (Can you visualize the players? What are they wearing? What do they look like? How are they situated to play?) Every once and a while I hear a cheer from a crowd surrounding them and can imagine the dancing that must be happening. (How big is the crowd? What are they wearing, how are they dancing?) I take a deep breath of the air which is clean and pristine and invigorating. The smell of the flowers, the grass and the deep earthy loam intermingle with the smells of fresh baked breads and food from the village.(What kinds of food? Can you pick out the different smells separately and imagine them co-mingled?)
The basis of this scene is not difficult to imagine. Pockets of this very thing exist scattered across the globe. You may have encountered bits and pieces of it in different places and different times in your life. The key in this exercise is to imagine your own set of ideals for a place you call home. It is an image you can return to again and again, building detail and complexity like a masterpiece of art.
As the myriad insanities of generations begin to heal we will see shifts in the world around us to places of greater artistic beauty and natural aesthetic. We each have the opportunity to create our own personal expressions of this in our own lives. It all begins with a healthy relationship to our imagination.
I hope you enjoyed this excerpt from my forthcoming book, ‘Unleash Your Creative Genius’. I will be posting more content regularly to my Facebook page:
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